Catacombs of Paris – Touring the Underground Labyrinth of Death

We have always wanted to go to the Catacombs of Paris, France. It took us a few tries, but we finally made it happen!

Catacombs of Paris

A tour of the Catacombs of Paris

The last time we were in Paris, we didn't make it to the underground labyrinth of death.

We've been fascinated with catacombs for years and though when we visited Lima, Peru we'd get the chance to see them there.

Unfortunately I developed a bad case of food poisoning from eating a burger at Tony Roma's. I spent the last two days in Lima praying to the porcelain God.

It took us three tries in Paris and on in Lima, but on our fourth and most recent visit to Europe, we finally got to go beneath Paris and explore the Catacombs!

Visiting Paris for the First Time?

Check out our post on 19 Free Things to do in Paris

Catacombs of Paris Tour

Catacombs of Paris

 

"If a barrel of bones disturbs you, the catacombs might be traumatic."

 

We landed on French soil and put the catacombs at the top of our agenda.

On day one we felt groggy from jet lag but we refused to let it beat us. After refuelling with a fresh brewed coffee and croissants we hopped on the metro to catch the train Montparnasse.

The Catacombs are located in Montparnasse at the Denfert Rochereau Metro station.

Denfert Rochereau Metro station

How to Get to the Catacombs by Public Transport

 

  • Metro Stop - Denfert Rochereau. Catacombs are right across the street
  • Bus # 38 and #68
  • Be prepared to walk a couple of Kilometres once you are in the Catacombs
  • No toilets in the tunnel system
  • There are emergency phones inside the catacombs if there is a problem

 

Check out our list of 

Paris Attractions Openings & Closures

The hallways are dark and narrow!

The hallways are surprisingly well lit!

How it all Starts...

There was a short line when we arrived and we only waited a few minutes to get in.

The great thing about the catacombs is that they only let 200 people into the caves at a time.

They space you out in small groups so you aren't stuck with a crowd. But be warned, you end up walking down the dark and scary spiral staircase all alone.

It feels as if you might be the only person going in. Will you be able to get out?

paris catacombs

Entrance to the Catacombs

The Catacombs are not for the faint of heart...

I was trying not to think about the warnings posted outside the entrance.  "People suffering from cardiac or respiratory weakness or a nervous disposition should not go into the catacombs. Young people may be traumatized by the experience."

Visiting the catacombs sounded like it was going to be a freaky experience. I have a slight case of claustrophobia so my heart started racing a bit.

Literally a barrel of bones!

A Barrel of Bones

Once we reached the end of the spiral stair case and walked into the tunnels, I felt relief. They weren't t too small or dark.

My visions of claustrophobia quickly disappeared. In fact, I found the Catacombs to be quite pleasant.

I must admit, the catacombs are a little on the macabre side, but they are not traumatic.

The tunnels are wide and high and the light is bright. Sure it felt eerie, but I wasn't going into cardiac arrest.

If you want to see Claustrophobia in action

Check out our experience in the Cu Chi Tunnels of Vietnam

Catacombs paris hallway

The Catacombs in Paris have surprisingly high ceilings.

For us, they felt more like displays of art than dead bodies. We were impressed by the way the barrel of bones, and the walls of bones were artistically displayed.

It was almost like they should be in a museum and not hidden so far underground.

Want to feel what it is like in the Catacombs?

Check out the video below.

 

 

History of the Paris Catacombs

The Catacombs were developed in the late 18th Century.

At that time Paris cemeteries were over run with human remains causing serious health issues.

The water in the city was contaminated and disease was running rampant.  Something had to be done to save peoples lives.

A decision was made to close several cemeteries within the city limits and moved the human remains to old quarries.

The Bones and skulls were stacked upon eachother!

The Bones and skulls were stacked upon each other!

After the transfer was made the quarries were blessed by priests and the bones put inside.

They were meticulously stacked one upon another in a very neat and orderly fashion. These are the displays you can see today.

Their aren't any names to go with the bones but there are plaques stating which cemetery the bones are from and what year they arrived.

Identifying the cemetary and the year!

Identifying the cemetery and the year!

Catacombs Paris Fast Facts:

 

  • Believe it or not the Catacombs in Paris house over 6 Million bones!
  • They continued to add bones for almost a century after the first cemeteries were moved.  
  • The last set of bones were added in 1871.
  • The catacombs were used by the French Resistance in World War II to hide from German soldiers but people were touring the catacombs as early as 1867.
  • The last major overhaul of the catacombs was in 2008 making it the easy walk you see today.

Should you Visit the Catacombs when in Paris?

If you like a little thrill in your travels and want to feel a little spooked, the catacombs are definitely for you.

Skulls peak out over stacks of femurs and tibia bones and crosses are placed in the centre of walls of bones to give it a solemn look.

Water drips overhead and the air has a slight chill.

As you walk through the dimly lit hallways you can hear muffled voices of other tourists walking behind you.

Or is it the voices of the past calling out somewhere from the deep depths of the tunnels?

Are the catacombs haunted? Who knows, but if there is one place in Paris that should have a haunting, this would be it.

If learning a bit about history combined with a little bit of spook and death sounds thrilling to you then you better add the Catacombs to your bucket list.

Bones and skulls everywhere!

Bones and skulls everywhere!

We Recommend this Exclusive Access Catacombs Tour for full access to all of the tombs.

Practical Information and Cost

  • Cost - 13 Euro
  • Duration - They say 45 minutes to 2 Hours, We were about an Hour and a Half.
  • Open - 10 am to 8:30 Pm Tuesday to Sunday.
  • Closed - Mondays
  • For more information visit their Official Website

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